LAHORE - The Lahore High Court Chief Justice on Friday summoned Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Ahmad Shah for denying Haj quota to new Haj Group Organisers (HGOs) despite court orders and assurance given by the Ministry’s Secretary on previous hearing.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial directed the Minister to appear in person on Oct 2nd on contempt petitions moved by many new HGOs seeking contempt proceedings against the Ministry’s officials and Khurshid Shah for not allotting quota to them since the last three months.

Previously, Secretary Religious Affairs Chaudhry Azam Samma alongwith his subordinates had appeared before the Lahore High Court and assured the quota would be allotted to new HGOs on merit and after verification.

The Ministry had informed the Chief Justice about decision to allot quota to 30 new HGOs in compliance with the court orders.

As the court resumed hearing on Friday, new HGOs through their counsel Azhar Siddique informed the judge that petitioners had been denied the quota when they reached at Ministry’s office in view of court’s recent orders.

He said petitioners had been informed by the authorities concerned that Federal Minister Khurshid Shah had restrained them from giving quota to new HGOs. He requested the court to initiate contempt proceedings against the Minister.

On a court query, Deputy Attorney General Nasim Kashmiri informed the Chief Justice that he had no update instructions about Haj quota.

He also opposed initiating the contempt proceedings against the Minister and said public office holders enjoyed immunity from contempt proceedings under Article 248(1) of the Constitution.

At this, the petitioners counsel said Supreme Court had ruled out in judgment in Contempt of Court Act (COCA) 2012 that no public office holder had immunity from contempt proceedings under Article 248(1).

Imtiaz Ahmad Siddiqui, counsel of Ministry of Religious Affairs, also informed the Chief Justice that Additional Secretary on Sep 26th forwarded a summary to Syed Khurshid Shah for giving quota to new HGOs.

The Minister had sent back the summary by writing on it to challenge the decision before the apex court, Siddiqui added.

At this, petitioners counsel informed the court that the Ministry had neither obtained any stay order from apex court nor filed any intra-court appeal against the decision issued on June 6th by the LHC.

He pointed out the petitioners were moving from pillar to post for last three months for implementation of LHC orders.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial heard the arguments and issued show-cause notice to Syed Khurshid Shah under Section 17 of Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003.

The court also directed the Minister to appear in person on Oct 2nd.